Approaches to Poetry, Theology and Philosophy
Edited By Martin Potter, Malgorzata Grzegorzewska and Jean Ward
This collection of essays explores poetry’s contribution to the expression of theological wonder, which can occur both in ordinary life and in the natural world or can arise in the context of explicitly supernatural mystical experience. Poets have a special role in capturing religious awe in ways beyond the power of discursive language. Some essays in this book approach the subject on a theoretical level, working with theology, philosophy and literary criticism. Others provide close readings of poems in which the engagement with a variously understood idea or experience of wonder is prominent, from the English-language tradition and outside it. Poets from culturally and historically different backgrounds are thus drawn together through the focus on the meaning of wonder.
In Wonderment: David Constantine and the Commonplace
Abstract: This essay explores forms of enchantment in David Constantine’s poetry. The main argument is that the source of wonder in the discussed poems is the quotidian, filled with commonplace events and things. The discussion aims to demonstrate the ways in which enchantment manifests itself in the interconnectedness of the subject, the world, and the other.
Keywords: David Constantine, enchantment, phenomenology, interconnectedness, quotidian
“The perpetual ideal is astonishment”. Thus, citing the words of Derek Walcott, Anne Stevenson opens her 2012 collection entitled Astonishment (9). Walcott’s statement expresses the reason behind many poetic works, as poets respond to the world with wonder in pursuit of words which would capture the sense of enchantment. It is a response to the sublime, or “absolutely great” (78), which remains incomparable, as Kant explains in his Critique of Judgment. Astonishment is the essential poetic state. The verb to “astonish”, from Latin extonare (ex- “out” + tonare “to thunder”), literally means ‘to leave someone thunderstruck’. Astonishment causes the person who experiences it to freeze and stand still at a sight, as if in ecstasy, outside oneself. Louise Economides observes that wonder is “commonly associated with positive forms of affect, including awe, excitement, and pleasurable de-centering” (5), the latter suggesting ecstasy, a moment of displacement and rapture. So poets stand still to watch and listen, and seek to recreate the sense of the “now” in words, recapturing in the time of a poem the timeless suspension of the moment that comes...
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